NHL goalies brace for 3-on-3 All-Star Game pace
Roberto Luongo knows better than to believe his 72 career shutouts will make much of a difference at the NHL All-Star festivities this weekend.
''You don't prepare for it,'' the Florida Panthers goalie said shortly after moving into 11th place on the career shutout list following a 4-0 win over Chicago last week. ''It's an All-Star Game. I'm not going to take it seriously. I'm going to enjoy the weekend and have some fun trying to put on a show for the fans.''
Goalies haven't traditionally been the stars of the All-Star Game, a trend that's expected to continue Sunday, when the league brings its newly introduced 3-on-3 overtime format to Nashville, Tennessee.
If this regular-season is an indication, the game will be wide open, featuring end-to-end action and numerous breakaway and odd-man rushes.
Teams of players representing each of the four divisions will square off in two 20-minute, 3-on-3 semifinals. The winners will advance to a 20-minute championship, with the winning team splitting $1 million in prize money.
The format was enough for even aging - or is it ageless? - star Jaromir Jagr to ask fans not to vote for him because the 43-year-old Panthers forward wasn't sure if his body was up for it.
''Fans - I appreciate your votes for All-Star game, but 3 on 3 would kill me, and I don't want to die,'' Jagr wrote, adding a smiley-face in a note posted on his Twitter account last month.
Unfortunately for Jagr, he earned enough votes to be named the Atlantic Division captain.
''I'm surprised he feels like that. I know how much he likes hockey,'' Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said of Jagr. ''Obviously, he's 43, so it's a little different than me at 25. ... But I think he'll have fun once he's there.''
Duchene believes the Central Division has the edge because the team has six of the NHL's top eight goal-scorers.
The 3-on-3 format will certainly expose those who fail to hustle.
''You have to skate or you're going to look brutal,'' O'Reilly said.
As for the goalies, he has no sympathy for them.
''As a forward trying to score, nah, I never liked goalies,'' O'Reilly said with a laugh.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz expressed concern as to whether the 3-on-3 format might expose players to injuries.
''You take a shot, miss the net or you get a great offensive chance, now there's a race all the way back,'' Trotz said. ''When you're fatigued, you can probably blow a groin or something.''
BY THE NUMBERS
In replacing the 4-on-4 format this season, 3-on-3 action has delivered on the NHL's objective to increase the number of games decided in overtime.
Through Monday, 108 games have ended in overtime versus 62 decided in a shootout, according to STATS. Last season, 136 games ended in OT and 170 by shootout.
In 2010-11, a league-high 148 games out of 297 were decided in overtime.
A VOTE FOR JOHN SCOTT
Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons plans to tune in and watch the All-Star Game for the first time because of John Scott. Girgensons got to know Scott and the player's sense of humor when they were teammates in Buffalo two years ago.
''A lot of people will watch the game because of him,'' Girgensons said. ''And when they see interviews and stuff with that guy, people are going to love that. You need guys like that. He's probably one of the funniest guys.''
Scott's selection through a fan vote was questioned because he's a sparingly used tough guy. Scott's now playing in the minors after being traded to Montreal by Arizona.
Girgensons, Buffalo's 2013 first-round draft pick, became an internet sensation last year, when fans in his native Latvia rallied to vote him into the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
Girgensons favors All-Star selections being made by a players' vote.
Sharks forward Joe Thornton has two goals and 12 assists during a 10-game point streak that coincides with San Jose's 8-0-2 run. On Tuesday night, he became the 33rd player to reach 1,300 career points.
The Wild enter the All-Star break having gone 1-6-1 in their past eight, including two shutout losses.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Oilers rookie forward Connor McDavid's anticipated return after missing 37 games with a broken left clavicle adds buzz to a game between two divisional last-place teams on Feb. 2, when Columbus travels to play Edmonton.
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver, Tim Reynolds in Sunrise, Florida, Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Stephen Whyno in Arlington, Virginia and freelance writer Lary Bump in Dallas contributed to this report.